Exercise During Pregnancy? A Social Dilemma in Pakistan

KARACHI–  According to a new research conducted by Aga Khan University (AKU), Pregnant women in Pakistan are missing out on the significant health benefits that come from performing regular exercise during pregnancy.

After studying of the lifestyles of over 450 pregnant women, it was revealed that, just over one in three women (36 per cent) were physically active during their pregnancy, with just 3 per cent of those took out 30 minutes per day for sports or exercise. Around 86 per cent of women reported that, they spent their leisure time in sedentary activities such as watching television.

Dr. Zahra Hoodbhoy, Senior Instructor in Pediatrics and Child Health, AKU,  stated that, There is a misconception that exercise can cause harm to the baby. Most women are told to rest and adopt a healthy diet during pregnancy, but they are rarely informed about the value of exercise. Our study found that very few mothers-to-be were aware of how physical activity could contribute to their health and wellbeing.”

Guidelines from Global Obstetrics Bodies recommend that pregnant women, who are not at risk of complications, engage in up to 30 minutes of exercise. Physical activity is good for expecting mothers as it improves cardiovascular health, protects individuals from contracting diabetes or hypertension during pregnancy, limits weight gain and reduces the risk of postpartum depression.There are also important health benefits for the baby, as it boosts blood circulation, lowers the chance of fetal distress during labour and has been proven to have no impact on fetal growth.

As times are changing, pregnant women need to think differently about exercise. Expecting women are generally keen to learn about ways to stay healthy during pregnancy, so the doctors and maternal health care staff should inform mothers about the benefits of exercising.

This study revealed a number of social and physical barriers that prevented women from exercising more regularly. The most common concerns were a lack of support from peers and relatives, poor access to affordable facilities and concerns about safety.

A lot of women said there are not enough facilities available to them even if they did want to exercise,” says Dr. Romaina Iqbal, Associate Professor Community Health Sciences, AKU and a co-investigator on the study. “In many communities there aren’t sidewalks to walk on and there are no parks where women feel safe to go on their own. Stray dogs also present a safety risk. These challenges call for a multi-sectorial approach to promoting exercise during pregnancy, by creating awareness among women and by addressing the environmental barriers that keep women from getting the physical activity they need.”

The study declared performing household chores as the main source of physical activity in Pakistan. Perspectives of pregnant Pakistani women was funded by a grant from the Pakistan Medical and Research Council.


July 6, 2018

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